Chipotle Locations Reopen but E. Coli Source Still Unknown

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Chipotle restaurantsThe 43 closed Chipotle restaurants across Oregon and Washington have begun reopening following extensive testing of products and surfaces. Although the exact cause of the E. coli outbreak that has sickened 42 people as of November 10 remains unknown, health officials do not believe there is any ongoing risk remaining.

This type of result is not entirely unusual despite the hundreds of samples that were tested. Contaminated food can become eaten or disposed of before getting retrieved for testing. In total, almost 900 tests have been performed on Chipotle food, equipment, and surfaces and all have been negative.

According to the CDC, 14 of those infected, 10 in Washington and four in Oregon, required hospitalization. There have been no deaths as a result of this outbreak and there have also been no incidents of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication of E. coli infection that can cause kidney failure.

In order to get permission to reopen the stores, Chipotle has agreed to several additional steps meant to prevent a reoccurrence of infection. All ingredients the closed restaurants used are to be replaced and high-risk items such as raw meat and dairy will undergo additional testing before reaching the locations. Ongoing screening of employees will be performed to make sure none have the infection, and county health officials will need to confirm that these steps have been performed properly. Enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices will be employed at all nationwide locations as an additional precaution.

No Chipotle restaurants outside of Oregon and Washington have been linked to this outbreak. An E. coli case in Minnesota, despite being from the same strain, is not currently thought to be related as the victim had not eaten at Chipotle within the necessary timeframe. The state and federal health officials will be continuing to look into possible causes and sources of the outbreak.

E. coli is a foodborne illness that commonly causes diarrhea and stomach pain. Symptoms can appear up to ten days after initial infection and usually last for about a week. This outbreak was first identified on November 4 and was quickly linked to the Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. Only 11 restaurants were confirmed to be linked to cases of E. coli, but the company closed all locations within Oregon and Washington as a precautionary measure. The CDC and state and federal health officials will continue to monitor for new cases for the time being.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Chipotle to Reopen Northwest Restaurants,” Chipotle Investor Relations web site, November 10, 2015;
Goldschmidt, D., “Chipotle E. Coli Probe Fails to Find Source,” CNN web site, November 10, 2015;
“Multistate Outbreak of Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia Coli O26 Infections Linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill in Washington and Oregon,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, November 9, 2015;